Thursday, March 28, 2013

EBooks from the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries

EBooks from the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries

I may be late coming to this party but I just discovered last week that there is now one more reason to love the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries’ website – eBooks! I’ve avoided downloading eBooks until now, but I was tempted by the idea of having the Massachusetts Guide to Evidence on my iPhone. Why? Am I ever in court? No, but the idea was irresistibly appealing (which is probably why I’m a law librarian).

So in the interests of reportage, I tried downloading from the website onto my iPhone to test how easy it was for someone of my tech skill level to do it. I had no problem finding and downloading one of the free eBook readers mentioned in Step One of the instructions. I chose Overdrive to add to my iPhone.

I hit a bump, completely ascribable to the aforesaid skill level, when I got to Step Two. I report this solely for comic effect:  I had a preliminary disconnect between how to get the book from the Law Libraries’ online catalog accessed from my desktop to my iPhone. It took a couple of minutes for me to realize that this would all make much more sense if I accessed the catalog from my iPhone. When done this way, the download is super fast.

I was eager to see what the Massachusetts Guide to Evidence looked like on the iPhone and to explore navigation. The book is wonderfully easy to read. Navigational tools sprawl across the top of the page. The most important tool for me was the table of contents feature which zips you to the relevant section of evidence. You can change the font, font size, search, and bookmark on the iPhone.

The Trial Court Libraries will update the eBooks. From the website:  “Whenever rules or other publications are amended, we'll issue a new edition of the book. If you come back to this page periodically, you can check the date next to the title to see if it is newer than what you have. Alternatively, you can sign up for our updates mailing list by emailing and we'll send you an email whenever a new version is put out.”
How cool is that?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Over the course of the past week, I fielded questions on the rules of professional conduct, fee agreements, and conflicts of interest from various patrons. Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education publications (MCLEs), like Ethical Lawyering in Massachusetts, have become my go-to source for all things MA. Of course I'm not alone in this realization, but I feel it's worth highlighting these resources for those new to the legal profession. I've found that, although a favorite among practitioners and law librarians, few law students know of their existence. Even if law students are aware of these publications, they often forget that many, such as the one shown here, have accompanying CD-ROMs that contain exhibits, including the ever popular and useful forms.

Massachusetts Basic Practice Manual and Damages, Interest, and Attorney Fees in Massachusetts Litigation are also good resources for new attorneys. On MCLE's website, you can search for titles by format, practice area, and jurisdiction. While the majority of their offerings deal with MA laws, there are some titles for New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

There's great news for the lawyer on the go. MCLE now offers its books in electronic (eBook) formats as well, with links to forms when available. I was able to download a free eBook sample of Ethical Lawyering, minus the forms links. Additionally, MCLEs are available electronically in Westlaw under Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, Inc. Materials (MCLE) and in Lexis under Combined CLE sources.

The next time you're waiting in line at the coffee shop, think MCLE, and you'll be able to whip up a fee agreement in time to pay for your drink!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Oyez, oyez, oyez!

Oyez! ("Here ye")...U.S. Supreme Court junkies listen up! While you still can't view Supreme Court proceedings on television, you can listen to the voices of the Justices and attorneys during oral arguments at the Oyez website. This website provides access to current and historic audio of U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments, along with case summaries, and full-text decisions. Audio files begin in 1955 but are not available for every oral argument. The plan, however, is to continue updating the archive until all audio recorded in the Court since 1955 is accessible.

Click on the menu at the top of the Oyez website and select "Cases," and you will get a listing of cases in date order. You can search the audio archive by case name or by year. Full transcripts accompany the recordings and are useful in identifying the speakers. Oyez also reports the outcome of each case and offers a searchable database of Supreme Court Justices’ voting records.

Interested in eavesdropping on the judicial styles of the various Justices and the acumen of the attorneys with whom they spar? (Plaintiffs and respondents before the Supreme Court are given 30 minutes each to make their cases and the Justices may interrupt with questions or comments during this allotted time.)

Interested in the arguments made in the Affordable Care Act cases from 2011? The links for these arguments are below:

So, the next time a Supreme Court case  piques your interest, listen to the oral arguments here!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Are you pinning yet?

It’s March, you're about half way through the semester, busy with your school work in law school, and looking for a break. You’ve probably heard about one of the fastest growing websites Pinterest, but have you taken some time to look at it lately. It’s not just something to do when you’re just looking for some relieve from all your school work, there might just be something really useful for your research on this social networking site.

Pinterest is a “Pin-Board” social photo and video sharing site, and one of the fastest growing social networks with over 10 million users. Popular topics include animals, design, celebrities, fashion, and sports, but lots of other topics are included and growing every day, including such topics as law school, law libraries, legal research and government documents, as well as such hot topics as gun control, immigration, small business, entrepreneurship, gender studies and gay rights. Some libraries are using Pinterest to post a sampling of their new acquisitions with book jackets which links to the vendors and publishers such as we do with our monthly "Selected New Acquisitions" list. Beyond the images though, many sites have links out to other web pages with lots more on the topic of interest.

For those of you who have not encountered Pinterest yet, the way it works is that after signing up, you create your own topics of interest on boards with photos and videos. Then others can comment on your Pins, re-Pin your images or share them via email, Facebook or Twitter. Even the Federal Government is getting into the act.

Government documents have been covered by a number of individuals as well as libraries for a while, but now even the Government Printing Office has expanded its social media presence by joining Pinterest.

The GPO press release says:

The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) expands its social media presence by joining Pinterest. Connecting people through 'things' they find interesting is the founding principle of Pinterest and a natural fit with GPO's core mission of Keeping America Informed on the three branches of the Federal Government. GPO will use Pinterest to share historic photos, videos, products, and Government publications with the public. Pinterest joins GPO's other social media platforms of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Government Book Talk blog.

Link to GPO's Pinterest:

"GPO is constantly evolving and keeping up-to-date on public trends and the popular ways to access and share information," said Acting Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks. "GPO's expansion of social media supports our mission of Keeping America Informed. Joining Pinterest is one more way GPO can engage the public and continue to serve as the official link between the Federal Government and public."

Actually the government has so much material that they can share without problems of copyright that the potential is practically unlimited. But if you do join Pinterest and start sharing be careful of what you post because you are still responsible for copyright infringement. And like any web surfing, it can get very time consuming.

Happy pinning.